Alice in Wonderland Review

March 8, 2010 at 4:32 pm (Movies)


Tim Burton struck a cord with the world of musicals (both live action and stop motion), and has been known for being one of the best creative sponsors for Hot Topic clothing lines while simultaneously butchering children classics like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The talented eye of director, or as I like to call it, hack, Tim Burton seemed to be a perfect fit for Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece “Alice in Wonderland”, and for the most part of the film, that idea holds true. While at times Burton’s own creative vision can be overbearing,once some of the lead performances like Depp and Hathaway have their time to blossom and the atmosphere and story finally hit their stride, Alice in Wonderland truly finds the niche it was looking for all along. Burton’s take falls into the rabbit hole almost 15 years after the “Alice in Wonderland” story we’re familiar with, taking on a brave new “Underland”, in which the White Queen has been overthrown by the evil Queen of Hearts with the help of her majestic dragon, the Jabberwocky. The reluctant, older Alice is handed the task of defeating the Jabberwocky, who is referred to constantly throughout the first half, leading up to the Peter-Jackson-esque climactic battle at the end. Tim’s interesting revolution on the story really pays off as everyone and their grandmother knows the original story of Alice in Wonderland.

The world painted in this Alice in Wonderland is one that reminded me more of Avatar than anything else, but when it finally gets out from Burton’s wing it really achieves the creative potential initially envisioned that it’s really capable of. Some of Carroll’s greatest elements of story were his characters, and Burton has made a few great calls for his re-telling. Johnny Depp was born to portray a character like The Mad Hatter, bringing to life the demeanor, style, speech and humor perfect for every moment he’s on screen. I vividly remember leaning to a friend and whispering “Thank goodness he’s finally here” during the introduction of the character in the really well-done tea party sequence. He, along with Anne Hathway, pull out some of the best performances and hit the creative nail right on the head. Even Helena Bonham Carter hits the mark a few times but can sometimes be a little too over the top. It’s a shame though that the rest of the cast, whether because of the script doesn’t favor them or they just can’t play the part that well (much like Johnny Depp trying to play Willy Wonka), they just aren’t as interesting or fun to watch as they should be through the movie. The lead of the film that portrays Alice is the perfect example of that, who’s just really one-note and boring through the whole film. Let’s take a regular girl, slap on a weak female-empowerment subplot, an awkward British accent, and you have the lead of Alice in Wonderland. We should have just saved time and called it “Mad Hatter in Wonderland”.

It’s also worth mentioning to bring up the case of CGI vs. Practical. I’ve always been a huge fan of practical effects. (If you take the computer-animated shot of Magneto flipping multiple cars in X3, and you compare that to the truck flipping-scene from The Dark Knight that is completely practical and real, it’s obvious the practical shot is always the better one.) Most of the CGI in Wonderland, particularly like TweedleDee and TweedleDum, works really well. There’s something about how he uses the generality of CGI Effects to his every advantage to create a beautiful world previously thought impossible. However, there were a lot of CGI shots (particularly backgrounds, some animal characters, and character enhancements) that just didn’t have any weight to them. My disdain for some of Burton’s weirder styles didn’t particularly help in most cases. All in all, there wasn’t a better fit for the job than Tim Burton and how he inventively integrated the two with his own choice of unique performances and environment styles.

As I said earlier in the review, it wasn’t until Depp’s arrival that the movie found its footing, after that, the movie becomes the great fantasy-action title it needs to be. So good news/bad news, you get to see 2/3 of a really awesome movie, but the bad news is you have to see 1/3 of a pretty bland film. While it may/may not be worth noting I personally thought the script in the movie was a little snooty. Half of the movie I couldn’t really follow the movie’s story because it was too focused on trying to be too smart for it’s own good. Of course, not all of Tim Burton’s oh-so clever “charm” worked for me, I found myself rolling my eyes more than once at some of the “genius” character models and dialogue. Not to mention a few terrible decisions for some of his Burton-esque shots he decided to leave in the film, specifically the break dancing sequence that takes out all seriousness already established from what’s supposed to be a heartfelt moment.

This makes me sound like I hated the movie, but I really did enjoy the movie. It’s just what faults it has are noticeable, but what it does right it nails it on the head, it was really awesome and I definitely recommend it. This ended up being the kind of movie I would have loved as a kid and watched countless times. It’s an adventurous fantasy fable that would have stayed in my VCR for weeks. It’s all about how it’s a love/hate movie, there’ll be those that love this and but the shirts and what not, and others that’ll be put off entirely. The 3-D is also used in a great way in a lot of scenes (the first rabbit hole scene in particular) that works really well for the movie and gives me some good hope for the future of the tech. Alice in Wonderland is a film drenched in creativity for both its leads and its atmosphere, which can be a two-sided coin. I highly recommend it for eccentric film buffs and the younger crowds alike, although some of the weirder choices in the film may keep a few from re-entering the rabbit hole.

4 out of 5



  1. Patrick Brewer said,

    Is the 3-D an important enough factor that I should see this movie at Regency or would it be about the same if I waited to see it on DVD?

  2. earlman27 said,

    Whereas I would say “You need to go see it in theaters” for Avatar, it’s not necessarily amazing in Wonderland. It doesn’t hurt the experience but there were times I had forgotten it was in 3D. There’d be no harm in waiting for DVD in my opinion.

  3. The James said,

    could you please take off the tiny format on this text, I can’t read it without risk of a headache


  4. earlman27 said,

    I will do my best I was trying to figure out how but I think I’ve figured out a way to, sorry.

  5. The James said,

    I agree with you on a lot of points, but I did like the Alice character, I thought she was just as good, if not better than, the mad hatter. Also, I enjoyed the break dancing sequence.

    But other than that, I pretty much agree with you. Burton tried to make this film to Burtony. It is still a great movie, but he needed to step back a little.

    (btw, thank you for making the text bigger!)

  6. earlman27 said,

    No problem at all. I really found that the actress that played Alice was ok, she didn’t do a bad job at her portrayal, it’s just there was a lot she could have done but she just played it far too safe. As far as the breakdancing scene goes, I’m glad you enjoyed it however it was something I knew was coming b/c i had heard about that scene and I was cringing through the whole film waiting for it and when it finally came I realized how much it didn’t fit intot the context of that scene. But I do respect your thoughts though haha.

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